In an opinion column in The Wall Street Journal in November, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) encouraged the Republican Party to endorse the constitutional amendment convention movement.
“Republicans should support convening a constitutional convention to pass term limits, a balanced-budget amendment and restraints on the Commerce Clause, which has given the federal government far more regulatory power than the Founders intended,” Bush wrote.
Once 34 states call for an amendments convention, the gathering, consisting of commissioners selected by state lawmakers, would be limited to consideration of amendments requiring the federal government to enact a balanced budget—or whatever other proposal is specified in the call.
Currently, resolutions sponsored by the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, a nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating the proposal and ratification of a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, have been approved by lawmakers in 28 states.
Has History of Support
Nick Tomboulides, executive director of U.S. Term Limits, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advocating an amendments convention focusing on putting term limits on federal lawmakers, says Bush has long supported constitutional reform.
“Gov. Bush is a longtime supporter of congressional term limits,” Tomboulides said. “As governor, he helped U.S. Term Limits defend Florida’s term limits from attacks by well-heeled special interests. He is a respected voice across the political spectrum who adds tremendous credibility to this campaign.
Bipartisan Support for Term Limits
Tomboulides says term limits are popular with lawmakers from both political parties.
“President-elect Donald Trump and President Obama have also come out for term limits,” Tomboulides said. “Trump has made ‘draining the swamp’ one of his top priorities, headlined by a constitutional amendment for term limits. Obama recently said, ‘Term limits are a really useful thing.'”
Tomboulides says term limits are compatible with the spirit of the nation’s founding.
“Term limits honor the founders’ vision of a citizen legislature by creating regular rotation in office,” Tomboulides said. “When lawmakers are churned on a regular basis, that provides for a check on individual members gaining too much power. Term limits are also the only reliable way to guarantee fresh perspectives and ideas in Congress on a regular basis. This produces a legislature much closer to the people and more willing to listen.”
Abdicating Fiscal Responsibility
Loren Enns, director of state campaigns for the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, says Congress has failed to accept fiscal responsibility.
“Congress has had 40 years since the Balanced Budget Amendment was made popular by Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan,” Enns said. “After 40 years, Congress hasn’t been able to do it, and there’s no expectation that they ever will. It has to do with the two-thirds threshold [for Congress to propose an amendment]. Because of the threshold, you simply can’t get enough Democrats to go along with it.”
Enns says many state lawmakers support using an amendments convention to require a federal balanced budget out of a sense of duty to future generations.
“That’s what motivates a lot of state legislators,” Enns said. “They’re now more concerned about the fact that, for the first time in American history, we have a generation that is leaving the next generation—their own children and grandchildren—with a bleaker future. There’s definitely a moral component to this.”
Enns says federal lawmakers of both political parties share the blame for out-of-control spending.
“The scary thing is that Republicans have controlled the House since 2010,” Enns said. “We were at $13 or $14 trillion in debt when they took over.”
According to the federal government’s budget for fiscal year 2018, the gross national debt is over $19.5 trillion, excluding entitlement spending liabilities and debt issued by federal agencies.
“You can’t just blame Obama for that,” Enns said. “Republicans have gone right along with that for six years.”
Enns says the need for reform is urgent.
“We’re between a rock and a hard place,” Enns said. “Congress has proven that it simply won’t cut the budget. They have a built-in trillion-dollar deficit going forward. They’ve averaged about $1.2 trillion [per year] that they’ve borrowed since 2008. It’s systemic. They don’t have the institutional will or ability to overcome what they’ve dug themselves into.”